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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 992

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - Mr Speaker,my Leader the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and other speakers on the Opposition side, including the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who have spoken today, have already presented well documented arguments that weigh heavily against the passage of this Bill. It is not my intention to go over old ground or to join issue with the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) or, for that matter, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who is at the table and who characteristically makes colourful but fantastic propositions - for instance, the claim that the present Commonwealth Electoral Act, in providing a 20 per cent tolerance above or below the quota for each electorate, ensures that the rural members of this Parliament, regardless of their political affiliations, represent trees, haystacks and cows rather than people.

I intend to devote my time to focusing the debate on 4 central questions: Firstly, does this legislation achieve the principle of one vote one value? Secondly, is it possible to achieve one vote one value as a principle in a practical sense? Thirdly, is the 10 per cent tolerance prescribed in the Bill a sufficient margin to enable the commissioners to adjust boundaries in future redistributions? Fourthly, is it fair to people living in remote areas to ignore such considerations as area and remoteness when drawing electoral boundaries? But before answering those specific questions I want to refer briefly to the policy statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on electoral redistributions which was made on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. During the Prime Minister's spectacular political assault on the western suburbs of Sydney when he came by barge last year, he released the following statement:

A federal Labor government will distribute electorates as the Constitution intended and as the United States Supreme Court has insisted that the corresponding provisions of the United States Constitution be carried out. The principle is that there should be equal representation for equal numbers of people. . . .

Thus Labor will ensure that there are 2 more Federal electorates in this area at the next elections for the House of Representatives (i.e. the Western Region of Sydney).

Section 24 of the Constitution provides in part: The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner:

Which is prescribed.

The Prime Minister said, in effect, 3 things on that occasion: Firstly, that the present system was ultra vires the Constitution; secondly, that he was going to engineer a new formula to give western Sydney 2 new electorates, therefore removing from the rest of New South Wales 2 rural electorates; and, thirdly, that he was pre-empting any decision that future electoral distribution commissioners might make in accordance with section 24 of the Constitution. Section 10 of the Electoral Act determines the number of members to be chosen in the several States. It specifies, in effect, that the representations shall be in relation to the numbers of people; that is, the total population of the States including children, migrants and - since 1967 - Aborigines. So, in answer to the statement that the principle is that there should be equal representation for equal numbers of people, the facts are that taking a State as a whole in accordance with the Constitution there is equal representation for equal numbers of people.

The Labor Party has also said that the representation shall be equal, electorate by electorate. This, of course, is part of the one vote one value philosphy and calls into question the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902 which at that time prescribed the tolerance of 20 per cent above or below the quota for each electorate. The ALP policy also stated that redistributions would be based on population rather than electors enrolled. The whole approach of the Labor Party to electoral redistribution has been ill-considered and is summed up in the words of the Minister for Services and Property in his second reading speech, when he said:

Although the principle should be to base representation on numbers of people and not on numbers of electors there are practical problems in the way.

What an admission! We all remember this new and curious policy being expressed by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Services and Property last year. The Prime Minister really got carried away with this novel notion and it became enshrined in the ALP policy, yet it is not feasible. Thus, on assuming office the practical facts of life have thrown a new light on a cunning concept that had on it all the earmarks of a gerrymander. I know that the honourable gentleman will be going to Peking later this year. He will probably study the reform of the electoral system in Peking. I do not think he will learn anything from Peking. He might be able to teach Mao Tse-tung a thing or two, when one looks at the extent of the reforms that he is envisaging.

The Minister has had to concede that, because of population movements and the delay between the taking of a census and the publication of the results, it is just not practical to implement this portion of Labor's illconceived policy. Yet I suppose Labor claims that it has a mandate for it. The Minister has had to eat humble pie by admitting that the only available figures would be those of the last census - now 2 years out of date. I am also sure that the best and soundest advice to the Government would have been not to alter the 20 per cent tolerance provision, also because of the practical problems it would create for the distribution commissioners.

Let me deal with the first question 1 posed - that is, does this Bill achieve one vote one value. The Government knows, even if the honourable member for Holt does not, that it is just not possible in the terms of this Bill and that it is just a prank. Whatever tol erance is measured in the terms of this Bill, there are powerful constitutional reasons why the one vote one value concept just does not apply. I illustrate this point simply by drawing attention to Tasmania, with a population of 390,000 as at 30th June 1971, electing 10 senators, whereas New South Wales, with a population of 4.6 million people, elects 10 senators. Tasmania with 390,000 people elected 5 members to this House. New South Wales has 45 members in this House. Let us examine the number of people in each electorate. Tasmania has a quota of 43,902 electors per division. New South Wales an average of 57,386 electors per division. Therefore, a Tasmanian member represents 43,902 electors and a New South Wales member represents, on average, 57,386 electors. So where is this one vote one value concept? It does not exist in this Bill and it does not exist in practice in any country in the world. If the Government really wants one vote one value why does not it have a referendum to ask the people to reduce the number of electorates in Tasmania so that the number of electors in each electorate in Tasmania will equal those of the mainland States? Why does the Government tolerate a system that allows Tasmania to have the same number of senators as New South Wales?

This legislation alters the degree of tolerance from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, but it does not achieve one vote one value. People are asked to believe that to perpetuate a system whereby there is a 20 per cent tolerance from the average is to gerrymander the electorates in favour of the rural people. Indeed, the Government goes so far as to say that this is in favour of the Australian Country Party. What utter rot. There are 45 rural seats. The Country Party holds 20, the Labor Party holds 15 and the Liberal Party holds 10. So the existing situation is not to the benefit of the Country Party but to all rural people represented by all major parties.

We hear the same old allegations and assertions against the Country Party. We hear the same old interpretations that the Commonwealth Electoral Act favours the Country Party and violates the sacred principle of one vote one value. If the 20 per cent tolerance provided under the present Act - indeed since federation - violates a principle, then surely no-one will say that a 10 per cent tolerance does not violate the same principle of one vote one value.

In his second leading speech - a manifesto stuffed with political accusations and innuendoes - the Minister in characteristic style gave the Country Party and the rural people, a cow kick to divert attention from his real objective of horning the Liberal Party out of marginal city seats. Of course, this is the sinister motive of this Bill. The political flavour of the Minister's speech leaves no doubt of this in my mind. All this was in the guise of one vote one value. This scheme is not designed simply to eliminate rural seats; it is also to provide a new formula acceptable to the Australian Labor Party to enable the boundaries of marginal electorates to be moved here and there to the advantage of the ALP. This is a cunning plot and a frightening prospect to those of us who do not want a socialist government in power ad infinitum.

The Bill is a smokescreen fired by the catchcry - the emotional catchcry - of the elusive principle of 'one vote one value'. The Bill does not achieve that objective, and the Government does not care 2 hoots. While ever Tasmania is in its privileged position vis-a-vis New South Wales, while ever the population does not remain static, there is no point in debating the issue of one vote one value.

Mr King - There are no Tasmanians in the House.

Mr HUNT - Not a one. The only way to achieve one. vote one value would be to have a national redistribution of electoral boundaries a day after the census is taken and have an election held the next day. This, of course, is impossible. So let us dispose once and for all of this nonsense and humbug that this Bill sets out to achieve one vote one value.

I turn now to the second question which I posed, namely: Is it possible to achieve the principle of one vote one value? I believe il is not possible in a practical sense. We live in a highly mobile society. There is great movement amongst people. There is dynamic growth of population in new fringe city areas. Because of the rapid shifts of population year by year and even month by month the Opposition contends that it is impracticable to limit the tolerance in the number of electors in an electorate to 10 per cent. I seek leave to incorporate the following tables which show the rapid changes of population levels between 1968 and 2nd December 1972.

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